It has been almost a year since I’ve done any kind of race.
The last one was a 5-mile turkey trot that left me limping and wondering if maybe it wasn’t time to stop ignoring that pain in my heel after all.
After a year of taking it easy and hoping my plantar fasciitis would just go away, only to be rewarded with a less severe dull aching sensation whenever I tried incorporating cardio or walking a lot or wearing certain shoes.
It was exactly as much fun as it sounds.
After about nine months of that, I decided to try new shoes. After all, it was new shoes that cured my shin splints problem, right?
Almost miraculously, the new shoes worked. After a single run, I started to notice a difference, including that I had less pain even when I wasn’t wearing the shoes. Running in these more supportive sneaks was repairing my foot better than almost a year of rest ever had.
Shout out to New Balance: Making long-distance dreams come true for flat footed gals everywhere.
It was around this time that my friend Diana asked me if I wanted to do the Philadelphia Half with her. I accepted the offer, excited to get back to it.
Of course, even with my healing heel, I had a lot to work back to as I started training for my first half marathon in over a year. It helped that my running partner, Diana, is always pushing her own limits, which inspired me to do the same.
By the time the race rolled around, I had cut my nine-minute-something mile down to a consistent eight or lower, and we were pacing to finish the race in about 1:45.
Exciting stuff, right?
Well, sorry to disappoint you, but my body had other ideas.
Not to get too TMI on ya, but I got my period the day before the race. And the. I started getting cramps around mile two.
I’m not going to lie — I wanted to quit. At one point, I actually thought to myself, “If I could cheat and just be done, I think I would do that.”
But by some strength I didn’t really know I had, I kept plodding along. My final time was two hours even — twenty minutes slower than planned, but still better than my first half time. Go figure, right?
Diana is an animal and finished just under 1:40. I know, right??
I’m just chalking it up as motivation to do another one in the spring. Gotta defend my rep, after all.
The rest of the weekend was lovely. We spent time with Diana’s family, all of whom I loved, and ate a bunch of great food. We’re currently on the train home, and I’m pretty excited to see a certain someone’s face after work.
Spoiler alert: It’s Joey’s face. I just like him, ok?
A couple of months ago, my friend Diana asked me if I wanted to join her Tough Mudder team. I’ll be honest: My immediate answer was thanks, but no thanks. I have a few friends who have done Mudders in the past, and I could never get over the fact that there are obstacles that involved running or crawling through electrically charged strings that would actually shock you whilst you tried to scramble through.
I mean, I’m a bit of a masochist when it comes to exercise, but that seemed crazy even to me.
A couple of weeks ago, though, Diana was telling me how one of her friends had dropped out of their three-woman team, and since so many of the obstacles require some serious team effort to get through, “If only I could find someone who would take her place.”
I took a deep breath.
“Well, I guess if I could just have her entry, I could do it with you.”
Also known as the words they’ll engrave on my tombstone.
Of course, Diana quickly made the arrangements, even reaching out to a friend of hers who works for TM to get my name on the entry, and the deed was done.
Honestly, I tried not to think about the event too much in the (terribly) short weeks leading up to it. Diana and I are also doing a half marathon next month, so we were already training. We both continued with our conditioning training regimens as well. So we were preparing. We just weren’t thinking about what we were preparing for.
The morning arrived all too soon. Diana and Stephanie (our third team mate) met us at the course in New Jersey. The weather was uncharacteristically good, which actually boded well for the rest of the day.
That Arctic Enema I mentioned? It involves submersing yourself in a dumpster filled with icy water. Like, the top three to four inches of the water are just chunks of ice. It would be just swell if it wasn’t freezing outside when we got out of said dumpster.
So anyway. Around 10:45, we crossed the starting line. Around 10:46, we had to scale a sheer wood wall.
The race had begun.
Besides running about 12 miles, we also did about 12 obstacles. (I’m honestly too tired to remember exactly how many. Plus, there’s a lot of running up and over steep, muddy hills throughout, and while those don’t technically qualify as official obstacles, they should.)
The worst parts? Easily the Arctic Enema and the shock stations. As I said, the electrocution had always been my least favorite part about the event, and actually living it lived up to my perception. It hurt. And in a way that just made you kind of angry about it. I did not like it.
Here’s a video of it happening (the weird jerking motions we make are us reacting to the electricity):
The icy dumpster was just the most uncomfortable I’ve ever been. I mean, I’ve done a polar bear plunge, so I guess I thought I had an idea of what to expect.
I. Had. No. Idea.
The second you hit the water, your breath just leaves you. As does any sense of reason. We made the mistake of popping back up for air before swimming under the divider (yup, they make you swim through the icy water completely submerged), so we had to force ourselves to go back under just to get out. I vividly remember swimming toward the end and feeling several inches of ice move around my head as I broke the surface.
As we burst up again, Diana just screamed, “I NEVER WANT TO DO THIS AGAIN.”
There was a mad panic as we desperately just tried to fight out way out of the dumpster. I may have kicked a teammate. I honestly don’t even remember.
When you get out, you just have to keep moving. I couldn’t think. I just knew I couldn’t stop moving. You warm up again fairly quickly, but the shock to the system takes a bit to wear off.
Okay, I just made the whole thing sound pretty awful. Let’s talk about the fun parts, shalllll we?
The Warrior Carry was actually probably my best moment. We were a three people, but at the Carry you’re supposed to run down a stretch of the path carrying a partner on your back, then switch midway through. Since we needed a fourth partner, we paired up with another team of three. That was two girls and one dude.
One 6-foot-three, 200-ish pounds dude. Named Adam.
He and I made our acquaintance, and then I hopped on his back. I honestly could barely to put together a sentence because my brain was still a little frozen from the Arctic Enema, but as we approached the switch point, he asked me if I wanted to switch.
“Yeah, sure, let’s do it!” I replied without thinking. The next thing I know, I’m running down the path with him on my back. His two partners turned around one point and marveled at my Herculean strength. (Really, they shouted, “Oh my GAWD, how are you doing that?”)
When we got to the end, we high-fived, and Diana ran up to me shouting, “Justine, you carried a man!”
I felt kind of awesome.
Thinking about doing your own Mudder but not sure what to expect? Here are the four things I think you really need to know:
1. You should train for this. I know you did a Warrior Dash or a 5K without any extra training, but this is different. Even if you weren’t doing anything else, you’re going to run between 10 and 12 miles. You should probably be able to run 5-6 without stopping. It also wouldn’t hurt you to work on your upper body strength. There is a lot of lifting yourself over things or pulling yourself through things.
2. You will get dirty. Embrace it. Because you will literally get coated in mud. Mud will be in your toe nails, in your ears, in your eyes, in your belly button. At one point, Diana looked at me and said, “You have mud in your teeth.” At another point, I was looking for Diana, and I realized I had literally been staring at her for ten seconds, I just didn’t recognize her because she was completely covered in mud. You will look like a swamp monster. It’s easier to just accept it. (Plus, there’s probably a water obstacle in the next half mile to help rinse you off a bit.)
3. You will get a little hurt. But probably not too much. I have a bunch of scratches and bruises on my elbows and shins (on top of being sore as heck), and I smacked my elbow falling over the other side of the Berlin Wall. But unless you are actually a spider monkey, it’s pretty much impossible to avoid. Fortunately, you won’t really realize that you are getting beat up until the end (and even then, not really until the next morning). Adrenaline sort of just powers you through everything.
4. Believe in Tough Mudder karma. You won’t be able to get through the whole course yourself. People will pick you up, give you hand holds, pull you through tunnels, and in some cases carry you through portions of this race. Accept the help (because you need to — you will actually find yourself thanking some dude for pushing you over a mud hill by your butt), but also pay it forward. When you get over the hill, reach back to give someone a hand over. Help the 40-year-old dude get through the narrow, slippery tunnel. Carry the man on your back because it’s part of the fun.
5. And most importantly, you’d best have a sense of humor if you want this to be fun at all. It’s important to choose team members that you can joke with (or at least just make “are we really doing this” eye contact with), and it helps to be friendly with everyone else. Thank people. Cheer people on. Remember that everyone is being ridiculous, and you’re not the only one planning to go home, shower, and not jump in the mud again for at least another year. And if all else fails, remind yourself that there is free beer in the end.
Honestly, I’m glad I did it. It was extremely challenging, but I think it’s important to challenge ourselves. And I sort of had a similar thought as I did during the polar bear plunge that it’s just nice to do things that you never thought you would do. It’s nice to surprise yourself. It’s kind of fun to crawl around in the mud and get dirty, then jump into cold water from a 20-foot plank, then scramble up a muddy hill, then run a mile through the woods, then crawl on your back through cold water, then carry a tire half a mile, then crawl through mud under barbed wire, then slide down a muddy hill, and finally run up a sheer wall with only the hope that someone will grab your hand and pull you up.
No, really. It’s kind of fun.
So that’s how I survived it. Now I’m sore, scratched and bruised, and still swabbing mud out of my ears.
I’m aware the title of this post is a bold statement. But it’s really the only way to describe what I did this morning.
(I’m also aware just YESTERDAY I said I wasn’t going to talk about working out all the time. But I’m boring. And a liar. Deal with it.)
I’ve mentioned before the intense Epic classes that I signed up for with my friend Diana. What I have not mentioned?
What is a Burpee Thursday, you ask? I’ll elaborate.
The class is broken into eight stations. Each station is comprised of some kind of toning move followed by five burpees. You perform each station five times before moving on to the next station. You have 45 seconds to perform each set.
So, for example, at one station you might do five dead lifts followed by five burpees. Five times. Then, at another station, you might do a box jump followed by five burpees. Five times.
Occasionally you finish the set before the 45 seconds are up, which means you have time to fit a few more burpees in. (Lucky you!)
I’ll save you the head scratching and just tell you that all of that averages out to at least 200 burpees per class.
I know you’re no doubt a busy person, so you probably read the last sentence kind of quickly and the meaning didn’t truly sink in for you. So I’m going to need you to pause for a second and really think about that.
Two. Hundred. Burpees.
In case you are unfamiliar with burpees (in which case, you were probably pretty perplexed at the 800 references to them I made above), this is a burpee.
It might look like the slightly more energetic cousin of the jumping jack, but rest assured — it’s so, so much worse.
If you don’t believe me, get on the floor right now and do ten in a row. Just ten. Go on, I’ll wait. I DARE YOU.
Now that we are all in agreement that these things are the work of the devil, it seems only fitting to remind you that I did over two hundred of them this morning.
TWO HUNDRED, YOU GUYS.
Even crazier? It’s the second time I’ve taken this class. The first time, I think it was actually worse because I had no idea what to expect and I was by myself. This time, it was still a beast, but at least I had my pal Diana to grumble with.
In case you were wondering, this is what you look like after you’ve done over 200 burpees:
Diana defies the laws of science and logic with her ability to still look cute. (I credit the mystical powers of her entirely jade outfit.) I look appropriately near death.
Of course, the obvious benefit to doing The Hardest Workout You’ve Ever Done (besides bragging about it 8,000 times in your next blog post) is that you feel like a warrior princess the rest of the day. No matter what you accomplish for the next 12 hours, you’re doing this in your head:
Because you accomplished anything after doing over 200 burpees. (Say “over 200 burpees” again.)
About a week ago, Chobani reached out to me and asked if I wanted to review some of their product. They’d noticed that I cook with Greek yogurt often (exhibit A, exhibit B, exhibit C, and exhibit D), but that I typically prefer Fage and would I be willing to try out cooking with Chobani. Obviously, I was thrilled to be asked (I never say no to Greek yogurt) and happily accepted.
As if that weren’t enough, they also offered me an invitation to a special Chobani workout at Barry’s Bootcamp specifically for bloggers and media members.
Um…free workout? I’m down.
I don’t know if any of you have ever tried Barry’s, but it’s pretty hardcore. It’s broken down into alternating sessions of treadmill sprints/incline runs and weights/step/bands.
They also keep the mood lighting appropriately intense.
I run pretty regularly, but I’m a distance runner. Hills/sprints kick my butt. And 20 straight minutes of lunges, squats, and step moves didn’t make it any easier.
By the time I left the class, I could barely walk down the steps to the subway. That, my friends, is a good workout.
Plus, class ended with a free Chobani protein smoothie. Can’t beat that.
So sweaty. So thirsty for yogurt smoothie.
I don’t know if I’ll attend another Barry’s for a while (it’s a wee bit expensive), but it was fun trying something new.
Which, yeah, is how I think of myself most of the time.
But anyway. I decided, sure, I could use some more epic in my life and signed up for the class. I’m a bit of a masochist when it comes to exercise anyway, so the challenge appealed to me.
I arrived at the Epic Hybrid Training Center Wednesday night about 15 minutes before the class, which was one of those courses designed to train you for a Spartan run. (Eep.) It was the type of small group that acted like they were all already friends, making me assume they had all taken the class several times before. (AKA, no one was all that friendly and they all acted tougher than they were.)
To my relief, though, only a few people looked significantly more in shape than I am. I had harbored a tiny fear that everyone would walk in looking like an actual Spartan, and I felt a lot better that most of them looked like they too spent their days behind a desk.
The gym itself looked like most CrossFit-style workout facilities — a variety of hanging ropes, bars, and sand bags surrounded us, along with jump ropes, raised platforms, kettle bells, mats, etc.
Diana arrived, we exchanged “let’s do this” glances, and class began.
By the time it was over, I was literally dripping with sweat. It was an intense workout, and there were definitely moves that I can’t do yet, but I was pleased to find that there was really only one circuit I found impossible to do at this point. (I’m looking at you, swinging/rotating monkey bars.) I’d never really considered doing a Spartan Run, but, hey, maybe, right?
Either way, it was a great workout. (An epic workout even??) I started feeling sore pretty much the moment I got home last night.
I have four more classes as part of the Groupon I purchased for the gym, and I’m actually looking forward to getting my butt kicked a few more times. I’m beginning to think I should make purchasing random class Groupons more of a habit — for the sake of a blog post at least, right?
Who knows, maybe I’m a bit more epic than I give myself credit for.
And that’s how I wound up naked in a building in the middle of Manhattan.
Hmm? What’s that? You find my Tarantino-start-at-the-end-and-work-your-way-back-to-the-beginning-style of writing alarming?
Well, DEAL WITH IT. It’s called a hook. Consider yourself hooked.
Anyway. Though it ends with me in the buff, this is a story that starts with trying to get buff.
As I may have mentioned, I recently joined a gym near my office. It’s a bit pricier than any other gym I’ve ever paid for (in my life), but it’s actually moderately priced for the area thanks to an employee discount I get through work, and it’s so dang convenient that I can’t even get home without passing it. Which, as we learned from my Brooklyn Y experience, help ensure I actually go on a regular basis.
For the last couple of years, I have been a staunch evening exerciser. While I would prefer to start my day with a trip to the gym, my crazy-long commute prevented that from being a viable possibility. (Unless I wanted to get up before 5 a.m. Or die at the hands of a (possibly) homicidal homeless man.)
Thanks to our recent move, however, my commute is much, much shorter, meaning I don’t have to wake up as early unless I want to work out.
I think you can imagine where this is going.
For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been telling myself that it would be a good idea to wake up earlier, go to the gym before work, shower there, and then walk the four blocks to my office. I’ve been telling myself this, but had yet to actually act on it.
UNTIL THE FATEFUL MORNING I DID. Also known as…this morning.
For the record, it had always been part of the plan that I would shower at the gym. And this is not the first time I’ve showered at a gym. It had just been a really long time, and I had completely forgotten how unbelievable awkward it is.
To be perfectly honest, I rarely even change at the gym. I’ll usually change my clothes at the office, in the privacy of the spacious handicap bathroom stall, before making my merry way to work out.
I mean, on one hand, I know I’m being silly. I know pretty much everyone averts their eyes awkwardly just like I do when I see someone half- to fully naked in the locker room. But I just…I don’t know. Nakedness. In front of people. Ehh.
I’m a prude, is what I’m saying.
Today, though, it just had to be done. Lest I want to become known as the “sweaty girl” in the office. (Not a very clever nickname, but it still stings.)
So after working out, I stripped down only to discover that…
1. …GOOD LORD those towels they provide are tiny. Who are they made for? Toddlers? I normal-sized woman can barely keep her dignity in one of those.
2. …few things make you feel less like a grown-up than showering in flip-flops. Though I was grateful I remembered to pack them.
3. …those hairdryers you’ve been seeing in the locker room for weeks and telling yourself “are so convenient!” because now you don’t have to pack your own? They suck. You still have to pack your own.
4. …showering at the gym is not your favorite thing.
Plus, as we covered in the first sentence, there’s something about being naked in the middle of the city that just makes you feel more…exposed.
So! My fellow morning gym-goers. How do you survive showering at the gym? Do you skip it? Do you bring fancy shampoo to make yourself feel more human? Tell me your secrets!